Monday, December 30, 2013

Along the way ... December 30, 2013

Yesterday I attended worship at the Rock Church in San Diego, CA.  Guest preacher Derwin Gray challenged us to write a love letter to God thanking Him for adopting us in Jesus.  So from here on that is what this post will do.

Dear Father,

I count it a privilege to call you Father and to be known as your son because of Jesus.   This year especially this privilege is a real gift.  As you know, a few months back I lost my earthly father.  He was a great dad, not perfect, but I am thankful he was my dad.  The day after he died, I was sitting alone preparing to take the first of two major tests in Officer's Training and I silently whispered, "Father you are now my only father."  And I cried a little.  Those tears were because I missed my dad, but also because I knew I would never be alone because you will not ever abandon one of your children.  I don't know what it was like for you to have to forsake your son in order to adopt me,  but I imagine it must have been extremely difficult.  Thank you God for not abandoning me, and thank you Father that no matter what may come I know I will never be alone.

Your loving and grateful son,


Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Along the way ... December 24, 2013

"Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared.
This day is sacred to our Lord.  Do not grieve, for the joy of the LORD is your strength!" 
(Nehemiah 8:10)

Nehemiah says these words as Ezra reads the law and God's people, who have just returned from exile, weep.  "Do not grieve, for the joy of the LORD is your strength!"

Many of us have heard those familiar words before, but what do they mean?

Most Bible commentators imply that somehow divine joy has filled you, so you can be strong no matter what.  But that does not seem to fit the context, in my humble opinion.   The people are weeping because they have broken God's law, they have offended Him, and they fear He will punish them again.   Yet Nehemiah says, "Do not grieve, for the joy of the LORD is your strength!"

This is obviously not some inner divine joy that chases the tears away, rather it is the LORD's joy (the joy God chooses to find; the delight He chooses to take, in His people, in spite of their sin) that is their strength (refuge or fortress).

The same is true for us today!

As we celebrate Christmas, we remember the LORD's joy, the same joy that enabled Jesus to endure the cross (see Hebrews 12:2), is our strength.   We can stand before Him and sing praises, we can stand before Him and present our thanksgiving and our requests because His joy is our strength!  We are forgiven and forever set free from condemnation because His joy (available to all who believe God's promise fulfilled in Jesus) is our strength!

Merry Christmas everyone, and may the LORD's joy be your greatest strength!

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

… Along the way - December 3, 2013

Well it's Christmastime again.  As I prepare to celebrate the coming of the King, and anticipate His glorious return, I want to pause to consider the benefit of the "commercialization" of Christmas.

Yes, you read that right the "benefit" of the commercialization of Christmas.

So what possible benefit could there be to the commercialization and apparent devaluing of the Savior's birth?

Well to answer that question, I think we have to consider the benefit of commercials in general.

I recently attended military training, which involved 23 training days.  On Day 12 most of us began to recite a GEICO commercial where a camel walks around asking everyone, "What day is it?"  The answer of course is "Hump Day" meaning Wednesday.  However, in our context "Hump Day" was the halfway point of training.

I tell that brief story to illustrate the benefit or value of commercials.  Commercials make us all remember a company's name "GEICO" and their slogan that "you could save 15% or more on car insurance by switching to GEICO", but commercials also give us a common language, a frame of reference from which we can all relate.  I did not know any of the other 128 officers before I entered training, we all came from different places, different backgrounds, and even different career fields, yet the GEICO commercial was a common language we all spoke!

This is where I find the benefit or value of the commercialization of Christmas.  I think we could call it pre-evangelism.  I find that there are a lot of people in my community who would not know the name Jesus except for Christmas.  They know the general parts of the story.   They know him as a baby born in a stable, visited by shepherds and wise men, heralded by angels, and highlighted by a star!  They know the basics of the story because the commercials speak His name!

It seems we may have it all wrong.  Perhaps instead of lamenting the commercialization of Christmas, we should take advantage of it!  Everyone knows the name Jesus, now they need to know the answer to the question posed in a famous Christmas carol, "What Child is This?"  If they can come to know the true identity of the child in the manger, then they can have the opportunity to put their faith in Him - Immanuel (God with us) - the one who came to save His people from their sins!

Friday, November 22, 2013

Along the Way ... November 22, 2013

It has been awhile since I have written, and for that I apologize.  The last 6 weeks or so have been somewhat of a roller coaster ride for me along the way …

Monday October 7, I left to attend Commissioned Officer Training with the US Air Force as part of my training to better serve the men and women of the New Mexico Air National Guard as a chaplain.  The training lasted 5 weeks, and was an absolute blast!  I had so much fun!  Being an Air Force officer has always been somewhat of a dream of mine.  So for me five weeks of getting up at 0430, marching to and participating in Physical Training (PT), marching back and forth from here to there, getting yelled at along the way for not giving the proper greeting of the day, or calling marching commands on the wrong foot, etc was all part of me "living the dream"!  It really was great!

This was the high point of the roller coaster ride, but like all roller coasters there were bound to be some low points as well.

During my second week of training, I received news that my parents (who are long haul truck drivers) were involved in a serious accident just outside Boston, Massachusetts.  My mom had received a broken shoulder, and my dad had been admitted to the Intensive Care Unit with more serious injuries.
Long story short, three days later my dad died.

Even now it is hard for me to write those words.  It still does not seem real.  For the early part of my life, my dad was my rock.  We hung out together, he gave me guidance, and instilled in me convictions and morals that still direct my steps even today.  I will forever be grateful that God chose Mark Clemens Kamphuis to be my dad!

Thankfully, my mom was spared more serious injury, so I still have her in my life.  God is good, all the time, and I say that with deep conviction!

The thing I hold onto during this roller coaster of a ride is the promise Jesus made before He ascended to heaven.  After giving what is called "The Great Commission" ("Go therefore into all the world and make disciples of all nations; baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit and teaching them to obey everything I commanded you …") Jesus says, "And remember I am with you always even to the end of the age."  God with us!  He is Immanuel!  He is my rock, and it is his promise that I continue to hold onto even now.

I know my dad is with Jesus, which is better by far.  Being with Jesus is the goal of our faith, and it is the reason He came.  He is "God with us" so that one day we can be with Him for all eternity.   May the LORD bless you and keep you as you journey yourself on an occasionally bumpy, roller coaster of a ride along the way …

Monday, October 7, 2013

Along the way ... For the week of October 6, 2013

Does God ever use the people we expect?

Yesterday we studied Leah's story.  Leah was Jacob's first and unwanted wife.  Jacob loved Rebecca best.  Yet God did not show the same favoritism.  The Bible says, "When the LORD saw that Leah was unloved, he enabled her to conceive.  Yet Rachel remained childless." (Genesis 29:31)

I am not suggesting that God was punishing Rachel.  I, like Jacob (Genesis 30:2), have no idea what God was doing with Rachel.  My point is focused on Leah.  The LORD saw her need, had compassion on her, and gave her children.   God saw Leah was unloved, so He showed her love.

Leah is an example of someone unexpected being used by God.

As we discussed Leah's story we asked if there were other examples of God using unexpected people.
Examples abound.  Jacob, Moses, Deborah, Hannah, Ruth, David, etc.  As we listed some of the examples, we realized that the question needed to change.  Can you think of a time God used so memo we might expect?

It does not take long to realize that God never uses people or circumstances we might expect!  Even Jesus was born into a simple Jewish family in humble circumstances.  He was not the one we expected either.

So this gets me thinking.  Which of us is someone people expect will be used by God?   I assume not many of us would say we are the ones people expect will be used by God.  Yet this places us in familiar territory.  God uses unexpected people to achieve His purposes all the time!  So how can you offer yourself to God to be used unexpectedly this week?

I invite you to share your own thoughts and stories as journey together along the way ...

Sunday, September 15, 2013

... Along the way for the week of September 15, 2013

This week I was studying the story of the Tower of Babel and was reflecting on the efforts of the people to build a tower that reaches up to heaven.

One of the thoughts that came to my mind is this ... Why do we hate the cross so much?  As human beings we would rather find any other way to God than to take the way He Himself has provided, which involves a Roman cross.  So why do we hate the cross?

I can think of three reasons why I have a tendency to hate the cross.

First, I have a tendency to hate the cross because it shows me how helpless I really am.  At the cross I see the awfulness of my sin, and learn that all my efforts at "self" righteousness fall hopelessly short of the righteousness God requires.  I have a tendency to hate being helpless, and thus I have a tendency to hate the cross.

Second, I have a tendency to hate the cross because it seems to offer an inconsistent view of God.  When God's justice and mercy are revealed, to me (and my human mind) they look like hate and love.  My human intellect cannot find a good reason to crucify anyone, let alone my own child.  This tendency has led some commentators to call our view of substitutionary atonement nothing short of divine child abuse.  If God is love, then the God who sends His Son to the cross to pay the penalty for sin seems inconsistent.   Therefore, I have a tendency to hate the cross.

Finally, I have a tendency to hate the cross because it shows me that obedience to God may involve suffering.  I do not like to suffer.  In fact, I hate it.  Yet when I survey the cross I see that Jesus was obedient to death, even death on a cross.  If the cross leads to suffering, then it is one more reason for me to have a tendency to hate the cross.

Nevertheless, with all these reasons to hate the cross, I know that ultimately the cross was for me.  It was my sin that Christ healed at the cross, and because of that I love Him.  I do not love the cross, but I love the Lord Jesus who was willing to endure the cross and scorn its shame all for the joy set before Him.  His cross leads to my crown as a child of the King.  His death leads to my life, so when I survey the awful cross I realize that what was done there demands my soul, my life, my all!

So what about you?  Do you have a tendency to hate the cross?  If so, how do you deal with the scandal of grace that involves a Roman cross?

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Along the way ... for the week of September 1, 2013

I have been thinking, praying, and studying lately concerning a fully Biblical response to those who live with same-sex attraction.  My heart goes out to those who live with same-sex attraction and are looking for a proper way of honoring God with their body.  (see I Corinthians 6:18-20)

As I was thinking, praying, and studying this week, God led me to consider Jesus; Who He is and What He is like.

I know that Jesus is God because the Bible tells me so. (See John 1:3, 14; 8:58, Romans 9:5, etc.)
and God reveals Himself in Exodus 34:6-7 as "the LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, and abounding in love and faithfulness ..."  So since Jesus is God, Jesus is compassionate, gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in love and faithfulness ...

But Jesus was also "obedient to death - even to death on a cross" (Philippians 2:8)  Jesus was obedient. He did what God said to do even when it caused him pain; even when he had to suffer.  Yet Jesus remained obedient no matter what.

Therefore, as those who are called to be like Jesus, we must also be filled with compassion and grace and be slow to anger and abound in love and faithfulness, and we must be obedient; even if we have to suffer to do so.

So what does this have to do with people who struggle with same-sex attraction?

First, we who do not live with this attraction ought to be compassionate and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in love toward those who do.  Second, all who are called God's children through true faith in Jesus are called to obedience, even if it means we have to suffer.

Consider two other verses.

In Hebrews 4:15 we read of Jesus, "For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are - yet he did not sin."  So if Jesus was "tempted in every way" could we possibly imagine that Jesus felt the temptation of same-sex attraction?  If He did, the Bible says He was tempted, yet He did not sin.  Jesus understands.  I don't understand, but He does.

Also in Romans 8:18, Paul writes, "I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us."  What "sufferings" was Paul referring to?  It is quite possible that besides physical suffering for the sake of the gospel, Paul also understood the "suffering" of dealing with temptation and learning to be obedient.  And it was those "present sufferings" that Paul said were not worth comparing to the "glory" to be revealed.  So although we may be asked to suffer by saying "no" to temptation and being obedient, we are promised that the "glory" is not worth comparing to the "present sufferings".

I know this does not solve the issue, especially for those who live with same-sex desire, but these are some of my thoughts on the issue.  And this is by no means "the last word" on the subject.  I am however interested to know what you think.  But please, as you comment, remember that we are called to be "compassionate and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in love" just as we are called to obedience.  Thank you.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Along the Way ... for the week of August 25, 2013

"Make the picture bigger!"  This was the advice I received from a commentary as I was preparing to preach and teach about what we learn from the story of creation.

The reference was to God's intention in sending His Son Jesus to earth.  Colossians 1:15-20 captures the apostle Paul's attempt to "make the picture bigger!"  Too often we think God's only purpose in sending His Son was to bring salvation to His people.  We refer to the angel's words in Matthew 1:21, "you are to give Him the name Jesus because He will save His people from their sins." and we believe we have captured God's full intention in sending His Son to earth.  However, as Paul advises, we need to "make the picture bigger"!

In Colossians 1:16, Paul reminds us that "all things" were created by and for Jesus, "things in heaven and things on earth ... all things have been created through Him and for Him."  Then in verses 19-20, Paul reveals God's true purpose in sending His Son to earth, "For God was pleased to have all His fullness dwell in Him, and through Him to reconcile to Himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through His blood, shed on the cross."  

God's intention was reconciliation between Himself and all things; peace brought through Jesus' blood shed on the cross.  Peace with God, peace between peoples, peace with all of creation; a complete restoration of everything broken and marred by sin.  As "all things" were made by Him and for Him so "all things" find their reconciliation in Him!  This is the good news, and the reason why we need to "make the picture bigger!" 

Can you think of other things that are included in God's purpose in sending His Son Jesus?  Are there specific examples of things that have been reconciled or could be reconciled because of Jesus?  If so, I invite you to share them.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Along the Way ... for the week of August 18, 2013

My children and I watched the movie "Man of Steel" this weekend, and we enjoyed it very much.   As I have reflected on the story of Kal-el, I have noticed lots of parallels between his story and the Jesus story.  Nevertheless, I have also noticed some profound differences, and it is the differences that I believe make the good news so good.

Let's begin with the similarities.  Certainly, Kal-el comes from another world.  He appears human, but he is not.  The symbol given to Kal-el by his father to wear means hope, symbolizing that he is the hope of both Krypton and earth.  Kal-el is often ridiculed, and persecuted for his righteousness as he refuses to fight back, choosing instead to "turn the other cheek".  Finally, my favorite quote of the movie also captures the similarity, as Kal-el tells the general, "You cannot control me and you never will, but that does not make me your enemy."  The religious leaders also desired to control Jesus, and their inability to control Him led them to believe He was their enemy as well.   I am sure there are other similarities as well, but now let's move to the differences.
It is the differences that I believe reveal the goodness of the good news.  Whereas, Kal-el comes from another world and appears to be human, he is not.  Jesus, however, is the eternal Son of God; i.e. He does come from another world, but He is also fully and completely human.  Kal-el is persecuted and bullied, but he knew his oppressors could not hurt him.  Jesus bruises and bleeds.  He can be hurt and actually is physically and emotionally hurt by His oppressors, yet He still refuses to fight back.   And I believe that is the main difference between Jesus and Kal-el.  Jesus was human.  He understood our weakness, He carried our sorrows, and ultimately Jesus was able to transform them into real hope and true redemption.

The goodness of the good news is found in Jesus' humanity because only as a human is He able to change our destiny from condemnation to reconciliation so that we can live right with God for all eternity.  Taking on our humanity and transforming it is what sets the Man of Sorrows apart from the Man of Steel.

What are your thoughts?   I look forward to reading them.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

May 21, 2013

I was struck recently by the description of Jesus from Isaiah 42:3

"A bruised reed he will not break,
and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out."

For me this is the heart of God displayed in the life of Jesus.  It challenges me because so often we seem to believe that it is our job to point out the sins of our brothers and sisters.  Although Jesus Himself said, "Do not judge, or you too will be judged." (Matthew 7:1)  Too often, we find a "bruised reed" and we almost take pleasure in breaking it.  In the same way, we find "a smoldering wick" and we cannot wait to snuff it out.  

What is wrong with us?  How have we gotten so far off track?

I recently had a conversation with a friend.  She was talking about visiting a particular church and being disgusted because two women were holding hands a few rows in front of her.  Her take on this was that  this church must not be preaching the truth if these ladies feel comfortable there.  However, I pointed out to her that maybe there was another way to look at it.  What if these ladies have never met Jesus?  What would be Jesus' words to them?  Would he begin with condemnation, or would he first express His love and acceptance of them (not necessarily their lifestyle)?  

Are we so focused on behavior that we have lost sight of people?  

I believe the challenge for us is the same as it was for Jesus.  The challenge is how to "identify" without losing our own "identity"?  Are we secure enough in who we are in Christ to be able to interact freely (i.e. "identify") with people knowing that we can still maintain our own true "identity"?  In other words, someone else's behavior does not need to dictate my own.  I can truly love "sinners" (especially because I am one myself) without justifying their lifestyles, attitudes, behaviors, or ideas.  I believe I can love them well, and still maintain the standards to which God has called me personally.   Can you?  

I invite you to share your thoughts as we journey together with Jesus along the way ... 

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

May 8, 2013 - Along the way ...

It has been a few weeks since I have written.  I apologize.  My journeys along the way ... have been many.  I have had opportunities to worship with brothers and sisters in Canada, hear stories of what God is doing around the world (particularly in West Africa among predominantly Muslim nations), and join members of the New Mexico Air National Guard in worship (both Catholic and Protestant).

It has been quite a few weeks indeed.   So what has God been teaching me along the way ...

I think of Elijah on the run from Jezebel following the remarkable events on Mount Carmel (see I Kings  18:16-39).  Exhausted, bewildered, and near the end of his rope, the living God appeared to Him.  God told him several things, but most importantly God told him, "Yet I reserve 7,000 in Israel - all whose knees have not bowed down to Baal and all whose mouths have not kissed him." (I Kings 19:18)

This is what I have seen in my journeys along the way ...  God has His people.  They come from many different tribes, nations, and tongues, but they are all His and remain loyal to His cause.

It is a wonderful privilege to be a part of the worldwide people of God, and may we never forget that as  we journey we do not journey alone along the way ...

Monday, April 22, 2013

Post for the week of April 21, 2013

"Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue, but with actions and in truth." (I John 3:18)

This is easier said than done.  No, really, it is easier to say, "I love you" than it is to show it.  Yet that is what we are called to do.  We are called to bring Jesus to people by showing God's love.  

So how do we do that?  How do we bring Jesus to people by showing God's love?

First, what does it look like when we get it wrong, and second, what does it look like when we get it right?  In addition, is there a situation coming up this week where we might have the opportunity to get it right?  

For example, I have been guilty of getting it wrong lots of times, especially in my role as a pastor.  
I used to think (and from time to time I slip back into it) that my job was to direct people's behavior.  
I thought I was called to tell people what to do.  Yet I have learned that when I do this (tell people what to do) I get loving wrong.  Is it because in telling people what to do I am more concerned with what people might think of me as a pastor if I allow such behavior to continue than I am with the well-being of the other person?  Probably.  If that is so, then that is getting love wrong.  

However, I have also found that I get love right when I become more concerned about the well-being of the other, than I concern myself with my own image as a pastor.  I get love right when I seek more to understand than to be understood.  I get love right when I humble myself and consider others better than myself.  I get it right when I give people the benefit of the doubt and really seek to listen and to care about what is going in their lives at the moment.  This is what it looks like for me when I get love right.  

So how can I do that this week?  I may not have the opportunity as a pastor, but I will have opportunities as a father and a husband.  I will try to seek first to understand before seeking to be understood so that my family will know I really love them; not by what I say, but by what I do.  
Lord, please help me to show your love this week.  In Jesus' name.  Amen.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Post for the week of April 14, 2013

"Whoever claims to live in Him must walk as Jesus did." (I John 2:6)

So the question comes, "How did Jesus walk?"   Again we are not talking about a particular gait, or hitch Jesus had in his "get along".  Rather this question challenges us to live as Jesus lived, so how did Jesus live?  More importantly, how did Jesus treat people?

In I John, John is addressing the situation of people who consider themselves "spiritually elite" looking down on other brothers and sisters and pushing them aside.  Their "enlightenment" was about what they thought they knew (special knowledge).  However, John says light is seen not in what we say we know, but rather in what we do and in particular how we love.  

Love is the way Jesus walked; it's how he lived.  So what about us?  Are we walking as Jesus did?

Yesterday in our sermon study group we came up with a list of ideas of what it looks like to love well.
We can help others, we can pray for others, we can forgive others who have wronged us, we can serve others, we can show others respect, and we can offer acts of kindness.  All of these things are ways we can show Jesus' love to others.  

So what about you?  How will you show Jesus' love to people this week?  Is there someone you can help, pray for, forgive, serve, show respect, and/or offer kindness?  Make a plan, and then pray about it asking God to help you do it!

Monday, April 8, 2013

Thoughts for the week of April 7, 2013

(Read I John 1:1-10)

"God is light; in Him there is no darkness at all." (I John 1:5)

What are the implications of this statement for those of us who seek to journey with Jesus along the way?  Also, what does it mean then to "walk in the light", and how does "walking in the light" bring us "fellowship with one another"?

One thing I shared in my sermon yesterday is that I believe "walking in the light" is not only doing right things, but also doing things right.  "Walking in the light" is not just about our behavior, but also the attitudes behind our behavior.  So how can "walking in the light" by doing things right bring us fellowship with one another?  

I invite you to share your thoughts, and maybe even stories of how this has happened or not happened for you in real life.  Our honesty will give each of us encouragement and strength and bring us into closer fellowship with one another as together we journey with Jesus along the way ... 

Monday, April 1, 2013

Blog post for the week of March 31 - Resurrection Sunday, 2013

Jesus is alive, and we have all the reason in the world to celebrate!  But what specifically are some of those reasons?  To learn more let's look at I Corinthians 15.

(Read I Corinthians 15)

"But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep." (20)

Jesus is the firstfruits of the resurrection.  He is the archetype, the pioneer, the original, but He is not the only one who will ever experience resurrection from the dead!  Jesus is the first fruits, and and there will be many more to follow!

I love how Paul describes the difference between a natural body made alive again (i.e. resuscitation) such as Lazarus, etc. and the spiritual body which is the result of resurrection.  (see verses 42-44)
That is such a great picture of what the resurrected bodies will be like of all who place true faith in Jesus.  And we are guaranteed this resurrection through faith because as Paul says, "And just as we have borne the image of the earthly man (Adam), so shall we bear the image of the heavenly man (Jesus)." (49)

This is our hope!  We will be like Jesus, and even now the Holy Spirit is shaping us to become more like Jesus, so that we can more accurately bear His image as a testimony to all creation that Jesus is alive!  Hallelujah!  What a Savior!

So what about you?  What do you notice in I Corinthians 15 about Jesus' resurrection that gives you reason to celebrate?  Let's share our hope as we journey with Jesus together along the way ...

Friday, March 29, 2013

Holy week #5 - Good Friday - John 18 and 19

"Pilate said, "Take him yourselves and judge him by your own law."
"But we have no right to execute anyone," they objected.
This took place to fulfill what Jesus had said about the kind of death He was going to die." 
(John 18:31-32)

"Pilate had a notice prepared and fastened to the cross.  
(John 19:19)

(Read John 18 and 19)

Today is Good Friday.  Not a lot of words should be spoken on Good Friday.  What is said is not nearly important as what is done; the accomplishing of the salvation of all who believe. 

Earlier, Jesus had said in John 12:32, "And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself." John continues the thought in verse 33 with this explanation, "He said this to show the kind of death he was going to die."  Jesus' crucifixion accomplished not just atonement for our sins, but Jesus' crucifixion (the type of death He died) also accomplished the purpose of lifting Jesus up (exalting Him) for all to see that He is the true King of the Jews.  And in being lifted up Jesus was then, is now, and will always be drawing all people to Himself.  Hallelujah!  What a Savior!

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Holy Week #4 - March 28, 2013

"Father, the time has come.  Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you.  ... And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began."  (John 17:1, 5)

(Read John 17:1-26)

This is called "Jesus' High Priestly Prayer".  So it is important to note what Jesus prays for.  He prays for glory (a revelation of the truth that He is the great "I AM") and He prays for unity (that they may be one), and He links the glory to the unity.

So what should we make of this?  If Jesus as our High Priest is praying this prayer, then what should be our greatest concern as God's children?  What other things is Jesus praying, and how can we begin to pray those same prayers today?

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Holy Week #3 - March 27, 2013

"I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace.  In this world you will have trouble.  But take heart!  I have overcome the world." (John 16:33)

(Read John 15 and 16)

At the end of John 16, Jesus recaps all He has has said from the beginning of chapter 15 by giving the reason why He has told us "these things".  He has told us so that in Him we might have peace.  Peace is what Jesus has come to bring, and the peace He brings will come by way of a whole heap of worldly trouble.  Still He says, "But take heart!  I have overcome the world."

What things do you see in chapters 15 and 16 that bring peace simply because Jesus told them?  What consistent theme or themes do you see running through chapters 13-16?  What is Jesus' command, and how should we obey that command in this world full of trouble?

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Holy Week #2 - March 26, 2013

"Do not let your hearts be troubled."

(Read John 14:1-31)

I find it interesting in John 12:27, Jesus said, "Now my heart is troubled, and what shall I say?  Father save me from this hour?  No, it was for this very reason, I came to this hour.  Father, glorify your name!"  Yet in John 14 Jesus tells His disciples to not let their hearts be troubled, and he says it twice. (see 14:1 and 27)

In order to understand the admonition "Do not let your hearts be troubled" it is important for us to look at what comes after it in verse 1 and before it in verse 27.

In verse 1, the admonition "Do not let your hearts be troubled" is followed by another admonition, "Trust in God; trust also in me."  Jesus has been revealing His glory by declaring Himself to be God.
In chapter 14 that revelation and declaration continues.  This is the hour for Jesus to be glorified.  This is God's plan, and Jesus faces the horror of what is to come with confident trust in God (recall John 12:27).  So He admonishes us to do the same: "Trust in God".

In verse 27, Jesus promises to bring peace.  "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you.  I do not give as the world gives.  Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid."  Jesus came to bring peace, and that peace is accomplished through His humiliation and death so that in resurrection He can bring peace.

So what do you see in chapter 14?  What do you think it means when Jesus says, "If you love me, you will obey what I command? (see verse 15)  Do you think the verses that precede this statement inform our understanding of Jesus words?  Let's share our thoughts as we journey with Jesus along the way ...

Monday, March 25, 2013

Holy week post #1

"A new command I give you: Love one another.  As I have loved you, so you must love one another.
By this all men (people) will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another."  (John 13:34-35)

During holy week we are reading through the second part of John's gospel together.  Today we begin in John 13 (Read John 13:1-38).  Here Jesus shows the extent of His love to His disciples by serving them.

What stands out to you in this reading?  How do you see Jesus revealing more of His glory?  Why do you think Jesus gives "a new command"?  What does this "new command" mean for those of us who have chosen to follow Jesus?  How can we obey this "new command" today?

Monday, March 18, 2013

Blog post for the week of March 17, 2013

Think about the story of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead.  (Read John 11:1-44)

It is a truly remarkable story, and in this miracle Jesus reveals His greater glory!  He reveals that He truly is the Christ, and more than that is the Son of the Living God who came to bring life to all who believe!

And that is the challenge we all have to face.  Do we really believe Jesus is WHO He says He is?  And if so, how can that belief make a difference in our lives?

Certainly that belief has changed our eternity ("I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes Him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life." - John 5:24), but what about our everyday lives?  How can this belief change our everyday lives?

I am anxious to hear your thoughts, as I too am wrestling with this question along the way ...

Monday, March 11, 2013

Thoughts for the week of March 10, 2013

Last week I asked if we shine the light of Jesus more through what we say and do, or through who we are?  I also said I had my own ideas about that, but before I shared them I wanted to know your thoughts.  So what do you think?

In my humble opinion, I believe it is more important that we shine the light of Jesus through who we are than by what we say and do.   Of course, who we are will shape what we say and do, and I think that is why I believe who we are is more important.

For example, Paul says in I Corinthians 13:1-3, "If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal ... If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing."  So what we say and what we do mean little if our motivation is anything other than love; true, self-giving love.

And that kind of love comes from a character that is being formed by the Holy Spirit so that we look more and more like every Jesus every day along the way ....

Monday, March 4, 2013

Thoughts for the week of March 3, 2013

In our journey along the way ... we are called to shine the light of Jesus in this world.  He is the light of the world, and by His Holy Spirit at work in us so are we.  (See Matthew 5:14-16)

So my question is this?  How do we shine that light?  Do we shine it most clearly by what we say and do, or by who we are?  Or is there a combination of these?  What are your thoughts?  I have my opinion, but I will reserve it for later this week.  For now, let's discuss, as we journey together along the way ....

Monday, February 25, 2013

The Right Companion

Yesterday we saw that Jesus is the "bread of life" (John 6:35 and 48).  He is all we need, all sufficient, to receive God's blessings, and we receive them by faith.  I will remain continually struck by the simplicity of it.  Jesus says, "The work of God is this: to believe in the One He has sent." (John 6:29)

Believing God is really all that is needed, but it is believing God via the ONE He has sent.   It is all about Jesus!

You see on this journey of life it is all important that we choose the right companion.  Those who believe in the ONE (Jesus) that God has sent receive God's promises and all of them are "yes" in Him!
(see also 2 Corinthians 1:20)  It is simple, yet so very profound!  Believing in the ONE God has sent has implications for every aspect of life.

Believing God's promise fulfilled in Jesus affects every choice we make because believing is also "listening".  Remember Deuteronomy 18:15, "The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you ... you must listen to Him!"  Believing is about listening, and listening is about obeying; doing what God says in His word - the words of Spirit and Life (John 6:63) - spoken by Jesus "the Prophet" (see also John 6:14).

What other aspects of believing God's promise in Jesus can you think of that make this statement, simple as it is, also so very profound?

Monday, February 18, 2013

Feeling inadequate?

My blog is getting a makeover.  Rather than looking at specific scriptures for "Going Deeper", I want to encourage more interaction and dialogue.  Therefore, I am going to use questions related to the sermon I preach each week to offer opportunities for dialogue.  Don't worry.  If you did not hear the sermon, I will provide a small summary to keep you in the loop.  So let's discuss, let's talk, let's share, pray, and offer support as we walk with Christ together ... Along the Way.

Yesterday I spoke about God's call to join Him in His mission (Exodus 2:23-3:15), and our feelings of inadequacy in answering that call.  The mission is God's (Exodus 3:7-8), yet He calls us to accomplish it (Exodus 3:10).  So how do we deal with our feelings of inadequacy (feeling "Who am I?") when God calls?

Moses dealt with it by being honest.  He was honest about his feelings of inadequacy.  He laid it out right before God, and God answered him by showing that only God is adequate because He is "I AM".

So what about you?  How do you deal with feelings of inadequacy?  Is there something God is calling you to do, yet you feel inadequate?  That's okay.  I believe that our inadequacy is our only qualification to answer God's call because in our weakness God displays His own strength.  So how do you feel inadequate, and how might we be able to pray that God will show you that He will give you what you need to do what He asks?

Let's discuss, let's talk, let's share, pray, and offer support as we walk with Christ together ... Along the Way.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Going Deeper for the week of January 6, 2013

The question: "Why are there so many churches?" is the "real" question we will consider for this week.

This is a very real question in the hearts of lots of people.  This weekend I saw a vehicle with a bumper sticker that said, "Jesus Saves; Church Enslaves".  I don't know what is behind that sentiment, but I imagine it involves a perception that church tries to control people by regulating beliefs and practices in line with personal preferences rather than in obedience to God's word.  And I have to admit that is part of the reason why there are so many churches because churches are made up of sinful human beings.

(Read I Corinthians 1:10-13 and I Corinthians 3:1-23)

The key issue in my mind as relates to this question, is that Christ is not divided.  Human beings make false distinctions within the one body of Jesus, which is made up of ALL those who have placed true faith in Jesus and have been united to His person through the work of the Holy Spirit by that same faith.
So as Paul says here and reiterates in I Corinthians 3, since Christ is not divided we must not overemphasize the divisions we make in the body of Christ.  (see especially I Corinthians 3:21-23)

Yet I am aware of how this sounds coming from someone like me.  I am an ordained minister of the Word in the Christian Reformed Church in North America; a denomination with roots in the Protestant Reformation of the 16th century in Europe.  So if this is how I feel about church divisions, then why am I a minister in a particular denomination?

Good question.  I chose to be a minister of the Word in the CRCNA because first of all it is the church fellowship in which I was raised.  It is my spiritual "mother" and I want to serve the church as a way of saying "thank you" as to my mother.  I also chose to be a minister of the Word in the CRCNA because I appreciate the theological heritage; a conversation passed down over several centuries into which I have been invited to join.  The basic biblical truths confessed in the Ecumenical creeds and confessions of the CRCNA give me a good foundation from which to continue the conversation in light of God's word and the voice of the Holy Spirit.

Nevertheless, although I am thankful to be able to serve as a minister of the Word in the CRCNA, I do not believe everyone needs to think or even believe the same way as I do in order to be "in Christ".  The body of Christ is richly diverse (culturally and theologically) and yet we find our common ground in the person of Jesus Christ; the eternal Word who became flesh so that we might gain the right to become children of God by faith.  I appreciate the richness of the diversity of Jesus' one body and I enjoy the beautiful dialogue we can share as brothers and sisters in Christ about God and the wonderful gift of His Son and the relationship we can have with Him through the Holy Spirit.

So what about you?  What do you like or dislike about the multiplicity of "churches" within the one body of Jesus Christ?